Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Locked Room the Angel Opened

天使が開けた密室 (tenshi ga aketa misshitsu, The Locked Room the Angel Opened, 2001) is a teenage oriented detective story by TANIHARA Shouko (谷原秋桜子). As the title suggests, it features a locked room mystery.

 Highschool student Minami is trying to save up money with part time jobs. After one of them instead lands her with a massive debt, she is happy to take over the well paid night shift job of a departing neighbour, though she has some doubts when she learns what it involves. An undertakers' does the initial handling of patients who die in a local private hospital (while trying to win customers for the actual funeral service). Minami gets a mobile phone and gets paid even if she is not needed; but if someone dies, then she has to go out (for extra pay) and help move the body.

All goes well enough until her unpleasant colleague is found strangled, and Minami seems to be the only person who could have killed him. Happily she has friends to look out for her, and soon they are on the track of the real killer.

This world Minami lives in is peopled a bit too much by the conventions of popular literature. Her two school friends are an energetic and self confident sporting type and a traditional minded daughter of a wealthy family. Her new neighbour is a handsome and intelligent student, with whom she is on bad terms for no good reason. Her kimono wearing mother is a kindly and domestic figure whom Minami thinks must be protected from the outside world. Any originality in the book comes in the depiction of Minami's part time jobs, particularly the depiction of the undertaking business.

The story and characters are perhaps a bit weak; but it reads easily and agreeably. It approaches the mystery at a fairly leisured pace. We are half way through the book before the crime occurs, although of course some of the elements of the mystery are being prepared at the same time. The actual puzzle could probably fit comfortably into a long short story. 

My kindle edition had a short story with the same characters as an extra, tatta nijuukyuufun no yuukai, 'The twenty nine minute kidnapping'.

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